Media Help Magna Build New TV Buying System

Automation lowers the cost of doing business, but shouldn’t hurt value of quality video
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On Mad Men, Sterling Cooper staffers worried when a computer moved into their offices. Now, in 2015, media agency Magna Global has installed a new automated system specifically for television buying at a time when data and programmatic are the industry’s overwhelming concerns.

“When you think about how the TV process works, it hasn’t really changed much in 20 years,” says Todd Gordon, executive VP, director, U.S., at Magna Global, one of the biggest media buyers and one that has been aggressively pushing automation.

The new system is called AdCore OneView, built with media company eMedia Trade, and was installed after input from media companies including NBCUniversal and Viacom Media Networks, which are also upgrading their back offices.

“We did a pretty thorough look at what actually went into the process of negotiating and maintaining buys, and we talked to our partners about the places where they say there is pain in the process, their own bottlenecks,” Gordon says. “And then we basically set out to find technology-based solutions to a lot of them.”

In the old system, while emails have replaced faxes, much of the process involves printing out information from one system and inputting it into another. That’s time consuming and creates opportunities for mistakes. The new system should change that.

“To me, this is the stuff that isn’t necessarily glamorous but it has to get fixed if we’re going to move this business forward,” Gordon says.

Data is a buzzword around the industry and the new system will make it easier for the agency to collect and analyze its own data. “When you’re trying to gain insights and analytics and understand what happened in the past and what might happen in the future, you need clean data,” Gordon says. That makes the new system good for advertisers. “If they can spend their resources on someone that’s giving the strategic thinking and building solutions, instead of someone that’s doing a manual task, that’s a win for everyone.”

The system also ought to be better for media companies. “When they get a [request for proposal] in a format that’s inconsistent from a client, it wastes a lot of their time too,” Gordon says.

Does that mean media companies that embrace automation will get more business from Magna clients? “Without a doubt, being able to facilitate easier transactions is a positive for a partner,” Gordon says. “If there’s a quicker way to express what our clients need and get a response back in a way we can respond quicker, I believe that results in growth in business.”

Another hot topic in the business is programmatic buying, which involves using data and automation to execute more efficient and effective media buys.

Programmatic was slow to take hold in TV, but Gordon says systems such as Magna’s help buyers and sellers become comfortable with the way automation improves communication and information sharing.

“Ultimately I don’t think people are afraid of using data and technology to be smarter about how they run their business, smarter about how they manage the yield on their inventory, smarter about how they deliver results to clients,” Gordon says. “I think people understand that a combination of people and data and technology and obviously great media assets are the key to success.”

And that can be good for the TV business, which has been leaking revenue as ad dollars move to digital media. “I really do believe that if we can successfully combine the targeting and insights that more granular data is giving us with the power of TV it can really lead to a resurgence in the TV marketplace,” he says.

Analyst Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research, a former Magna exec, says the new system is consistent with the agency’s automation agenda. “They’re trying to drive time, effort and cost out of the process of buying,” he says.

Wieser isn’t sure how Magna’s system compares to what other agencies are working on. “Others have been looking for ways to get improvements on cost and efficiencies and incorporate more data into the buying process wherever possible,” he says, adding that this is an area where “those who know don’t talk and those who talk don’t know.”

Is automation good for the TV business? “As long as there are advertisers who believe in the value of content adjacency and as long as there is content worthy of being valued as such, then there’s not so much of an issue [of prices being driven down],” says Wieser. “The problem is when an advertiser can plausibly claim indifference around which inventory they buy. That’s when you end up with the problem if you’re the seller.”

On Mad Men, Sterling Cooper staffers worried when a computer moved into their offices. Now, in 2015, media agency Magna Global has installed a new automated system specifically for television buying at a time when data and programmatic are the industry’s overwhelming concerns.

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